A research scientist from Salt Lake City, Utah, suffers from a rare psychological disorder that makes her desperate to live the life of a disabled person, despite the fact that she can walk and even go skiing.
Cambridge-educated Chloe Jennings-White, 59, knew from a young age that she was different, and is now even prepared to pay a surgeon to help her in her quest to lose the use of her legs.
Chloe spends most of her life in a wheelchair. Although she doesn’t have any kind of debilitating physical condition, she does suffer from a rare psychological condition called Body Integrity Identity Disorder, or BIID for short.
People with the illness have trouble accepting one or more of their body parts, and often end up seeking to have them amputated.
Obviously, this raises a whole bunch of questions about ethics in the medical professional, as to whether carrying out Chloe’s wishes is the moral or ethical thing to do.
Chloe has found one doctor overseas who is willing to help her become disabled, but she can’t currently afford the £16,000 costs.
“I might never be able to afford it, but I know, truly and deeply, I won’t regret it if I ever can,” she told the Daily Mail.
“Something in my brain tells me my legs are not supposed to work,’ she said. ‘Having any sensation in them just feels wrong.”
As Chloe has alluded to, her condition is psychological. However, this has not rendered her immune from abuse online. Chloe’s statements have resulted in her receiving insults and even threats from people who struggle to understand her illness. Among those who take offense are some of those who are already disabled.
This transabled bullshit pisses me off.
If I had the choice of NOT being disabled I'd take it without a second thought.
Ppl who think they are #transabled need serious intensive psychotherapy and serious medication.
At least they have that in their "favour" they're mentally ill! https://t.co/DAOJFEJ69P
— КОШКА (@KattHasklaws) December 30, 2017
On occasions, Chloe has become so desperate that she has intentionally tried to hurt herself to lose the use of her legs.
This is a mindset that goes back a long way – at the age of nine, she rode her bike off a four-foot high acting stage on Hampstead Heath, north London, landing on her neck.
“I only wanted to stop my legs working but could have broken my neck or died,” she said.
She also admits that she finds skiing to be thrilling due to the chance of having an accident and becoming paralyzed.
“I ski extremely fast, and aim for the most dangerous runs,” she said. Again, this could easily result in death for Chloe, but that doesn’t seem to deter her.
“Doing any activity that brings a chance of me becoming paraplegic gives me a sense of relief from the anxiety caused by the BIID.”
“My friends and family can get a little worried about me skiing, as they know I ski very aggressively and they know that in the back of my mind I actually want to get paralyzed.”
It was only when Chloe did eventually have a ski accident and was doing research to find a set of leg braces, that she discovered there was a whole community of people just like her. She took some comfort in this:
“It was a huge relief,” she said. ‘I wasn’t a freak – there were hundreds of others like me.”
Psychiatrist Dr Mark Malan, who treats Chloe, told the paper: “The question I often ask is, is it better to have somebody pretending to use a wheelchair, or to commit suicide?”
There we come back to the questions around ethics.
“One possibility could be to do some sort of nerve blocking so that that limb could not actually be used for a period of time, to let the patient test the reality of being physically disabled temporarily.
“It would give BIID sufferers a chance to change their minds if they wanted to.”
This sounds like a reasonable compromise. I have no kind of insight into Chloe’s condition, I just hope that she gets the help that she needs, and feels better about herself someday.